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Establishing Constructive Connections

There comes a time in every adviser’s career when he or she realizes how important good communication is with their peers, support staff, mentors and colleagues. But how does one know the best practices for establishing constructive connections without a guide?

Matt, a 26-year-old adviser, was just three years into the industry and found himself having to train and motivate a fellow “rookie” on the team, Jeff, who was 10 years older than him. After months of training, Matt began feeling that Jeff was starting to resent his help when his recommendations were quickly dismissed and Jeff continued to face the same challenges.

If this scenario sounds familiar, perhaps implementing the following formula will help you create constructive communications and better working relationships.

Start with the Positives
Let’s face it, nobody wants to be constantly criticized. Jeff would no sooner finish a cold call and Matt would be eagerly waiting to critique what he had overheard during Jeff’s conversation.

I coached both individuals, so knowing both sides of the story. I recommended to Matt that he make some notes then wait until the end of the day to meet with Jeff in private.  Then start the discussion with a list of positive remarks to reinforce Jeff’s great calling techniques. One example I suggested was: “You did a great job today following the format of the cold calling script…”

Transition with an Observation
It has been said that all manner of praise is irrelevant if followed by the word “but.” That’s because the listener will feel that any compliments given were a lead up to any true sentiments and hence insincere. To keep that from happening, it is important to transition with an observation. An example of this would be: “What I noticed is that you could be even more effective if…”

This example lets the listener know that you thought they were good at “X” and that by simply changing or adding a few things they could get even better results.

Recommend and Reinforce with Reasons
If you want to make an impact, you must give the listener a strong reason why they should apply your recommendations; explaining your own experience with the subject gives you credibility.

Here is an example: “You should add some of your own personal stories to your conversations. I did this and found that people were more receptive to speaking with me, because they could relate and they knew I was having a true dialogue with them rather than reading from a script.”

Putting It All Together
Now, here is how it sounds if you put the preceding three steps together:

You did a great job today following the format of the cold calling script, and what I noticed is that you could be even more effective if you add some of your own personal stories into your conversations. I did this and found that people were more receptive to speaking with me, because they could relate and they knew I was having a true dialogue with them rather than reading a script.”

This type of communication doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and preparation, but eventually you will find that it gets easier and it is well worth it as creating constructive connections always makes good business sense.

If you are interested in a complimentary consultation with Dan Finley, email Melissa Denham, Advisor Solution’s director of client servicing, at melissa@advisorsolutionsinc.com.

Dan FinleyDaniel C. Finley

Advisor Solutions
St. Paul, Minn.

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5 Tips for a Successful Presentation

Throughout the years, many of our clients have requested our support to prepare them for speaking engagements. Whether they were invited to be guest speakers for an organization’s luncheon, industry event, or just speaking at their own client gathering, our goal has always been to make their experience a memorable and effective one.

Aside from training our clients on how best articulate and convey key messages, giving them the dos and don’ts of public speaking, and what to avoid during a presentation, we also exhort them to follow these five important recommendations to ensure their success:

Know Your Audience
Research and learn as much as you can about the organization or event at which you have been invited to speak and the type of audience you will address. If you get to your venue well before your speaking gig, invest some time talking to members and organizers to get information, insights and testimonials about the organization and the event itself. When you step up to the podium, this little investment will pay handsome dividends, as it will enable you to bring up ad-hoc examples and/or anecdotes that will resonate and engage your audience.

Rules of Engagement
Learn well ahead of time what are the rules and norms for speakers. Are you expected or allowed to use visuals and/or distribute handouts? How much time will you have for your presentation? Will that include time for Q&A? Will the organizer be willing to share a copy of the attendees’ list with their contact information?

Practice Your Technology Skills
At home or at your office, practice connecting cable computers, opening and closing flash drives, and pulling up PowerPoint files on your computer screen. Time it, so that you will know how long it will take you to set up your visuals in the unfortunate event that an IT person will not be at hand at the time of your presentation. In addition, make sure to save your presentation on a flash drive and/or a hard disk and have a couple of print copies, just in case the computer and/or projector decide to fail on you.

Be Flexible
If the organizers allow 60 minutes for your presentation, plan for less time. Frequently, events run into delays and often only a few minutes before stepping up to the podium speakers are informed that their presentation time will be reduced. So, be prepared to give a shorter presentation. This will avoid the pressure of having to fly through the presentation’s original format.

Give Yourself Extra Time
Traveling by air, train or car has become a gamble, especially around big cities. Allow yourself extra time when you book flights, train rides or drive to your destination. Contact the organizers to find out traveling time from the airport/train station where you will arrive. Also, ask them about the exact location of garages/parking lots and how far they are from the venue of your presentation. If your destination is a conference center, be sure to identify the closest entrance to your room/auditorium—in large conference centers, it takes several minutes to walk from one end to the other. Also, and this may sound  “old school,” but if you drive, print the directions and do not blindly rely on your GPS, especially if it is the first time you go to that particular location.

As always, questions and comments are welcome.

Claudio PannunzioClaudio Pannunzio
i-Impact Group Inc.
Greenwich, Conn.

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Speak to Me in Pictures

What once had been the privilege of the wealthy and well-placed, highly specialized information has become a commodity available to anyone with a computer and Internet access. This information cuts across every angle, layer and shade of our personal and professional relationships.

In this digital age, as the volume of words has risen to a level unimagined 20 years ago, visual communication—photos, video, graphics, and icons—has become the preferred communication medium for most people younger than 60. We see this from the billions of pictures taken daily, on-demand videos and flashy website imagery. Facebook represents this paradigm most clearly in which visuals dominate in connecting “friends” much more than words. Even the word “like” has been transformed from four letters to a thumbs-up image.

Stepping Out of the Sea of Words
What gasoline is to an engine, information is to a financial and wealth management practitioner.  Across much of the industry, particularly among small- to mid-sized firms, the dominant communication form is the written and spoken word.

Across all segments receiving content from practitioners, the volume of words dispensed either overwhelms the desire to read it or prevents the ability to comprehend it. While the words may be elegantly used and within full regulatory compliance, what is accomplished if it’s all ignored or, worse, misunderstood?

By no means are words irrelevant, but the prevailing trend for content delivery in the marketplace is a visual-oriented presentation.

A Picture Speaks a Thousand Words
People have different preferred learning styles, but everyone has the innate capability to process visual imagery. Our sight is the first method through which we learn and process information (even in reading words, we capture them visually). Long before much of the world became literate, visuals were used to communicate important information. We see this when visiting a medieval church and looking at its stained glass windows, paintings, statues, tapestries and awe-inspiring architecture, all of which tell stories that in an otherwise literate society would have been written.

A visual allows much faster information processing than words so, even in literate societies, pictures produce efficiency that words cannot. Today, with information pressing on every side, efficiency matters. The sooner a practitioner migrates to a visual standard, the more quickly he or she builds the bridges needed to communicate with the information-burdened marketplace.

Communicate Visually
The following are the primary visual categories that practitioners must become agile in using when communicating in all these forms: proposals, presentations, reports, website content, newsletters and email content.

Infographics. A major barrier facing practitioners is communicating difficult concepts and holding to a regulatory-compliant standard. Converting detailed and complex written information into an infographic is a powerful delivery method. The infographic is a teaching method that captures the information as a mental image in which learning occurs by replaying the visual representations in the client’s mind’s eye. (See examples via a Google image search using the keyword “infographic.”)

Few practitioners possess the distilling skills or artistic ability to create infographics. Working with an outsourced artist, the practitioner’s due diligence methods, investment processes, servicing models and so forth are converted to an infographic. And, this can be done at low cost yet with high impact. (When working with the artist, be sure to receive the infographic in the forms necessary for both electronic and printed distribution.)

Pictures. Professional services is a relationship business. Instead of just writing or talking about “the team” or “client relationships,” use photos supplemented with captions to quickly convey the key theme or thought. Using pictures is not just for social media, but a suggestion for all content even for what’s hung in reception areas, meeting rooms and hallways.

Video. Search engine rankings are increasingly influenced by video content. Unfortunately, prospects and clients expect a professional-level video if you choose to use this medium. A small investment of $1,000 to $2,000 for an attractive background, an HD-quality camera and scripted spoken dialogue often is sufficient to meet the expectation. When your videos convey a professional-level production, a small firm begins to take on big-firm qualities.

If a new investment program or approach rose to common usage, advisers would quickly expand the solutions available; it would become a competitive mandate. While visual communication methods have become a preferred form generally, most advisers remain stuck in producing word-dominated content. Liberally using visuals in your client content not only enhances comprehension, but also results in a competitive leap.

Kirk LouryKirk Loury
General manager, The Advisors Forum
Practice development, WealthCounsel


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